The Malawi Human Rights Commission(MHRC) has advised government to be slow when taking decisions that have a potential to infringe on people’s even though the situation is dire.
In a Press Statement issued on September 10, 2021, which has come in a form of Advisory Note and signed by it’s Chairperson Scander Louis, the human rights watchdog has advised government through Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to strike between individual and collective rights as enshrined in the Republican Constitution.
Their Press Statement comes against the background that some public and private institutions such as Malawi Electoral Commission(MEC), Sunbird Limited, General Alliance Insurance Limited, and TNM that have started implementing a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination without seeking government approval. The Commission believes that such actions have legal implications and may violate people’s rights to a certain level.
The Commission recommends that government decision to adopt mandatory COVID-19 vaccination should be guided by the laws with sufficient evidence generated on the ethical fundamental principles as recently spelt out by World Health Organization (WHO) through their recent policy brief namely necessity and proportionality, vaccine safety, vaccine efficacy and effectiveness, sufficient supply, public trust and ethical processes of decision making. The generation of such evidence might entail government commissioning independent studies or research as well ad embarking on national wide consultations on some of the these areas.
“That government should review it’s policy on access to COVID-19 vaccination that should take into account the balance between individual and collective rights. Such a policy should take into consideration practical realities of situations of essential workers( such as health workers, police, teachers and others) in both public and private institutions as well as those whose jobs directly expose them to people including vulnerable groups of greater risk of contracting COVID-19,” reads the statement in part.
The Commission also lauds government on it’s recent policy to digitized access to COVID-19 certificate.
“While the Commission apprentices the digitization of access to COVID-19 certificate, it is of the view that this issue shall in the current form leave a larger section of our society unable to access the service because of lack of internet as well some persons with disabilities. The Commission therefore recommends that government should urgently consider issues of accessibility while rolling our the COVID-19 certificates,” said the Statement and addressed to the Chairperson of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19.
The Commission has told government that it must stick to WHO current position that COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary and should hence intensify efforts to make COVID-19 vaccine accessible to all as well as demystifying the vaccine through civic education.
The commission’s Statement which has has relied it’s findings based on WHO and other international legal instruments that bar mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.
In a telephone interview, Habiba Osman the Executive Secretary for the State owned watchdog confirmed the Statement and said it’s core function of their organization is to advise government and authorities on matters of human rights.
President Chakwera and his MCP government has come under fire from CSOs for remaining mute on mandatory COVID-19 vaccines as some sections of his government have started implementing.
Chakwera has also been faulted by medical analysts for holding stop over rallies which have been crowned as “super spreading events” for COVID-19 though the numbers look to have plateaued.
Meanwhile, Centre for Democracy Economic Development and Initiative( CDEDI) has given Attorney General 14 days ultimatum to respond to issue of COVID-19 mandatory vaccination as implemented by some government institutions and private organizations if the practice is being with government’s blessing.
Covid-19 has disrupted the economic architecture of the country as some companies have closed their operations.